New dining era in Cork
The pandemic has wreaked too much havoc, personal and professional, for it to be viewed as anything other than one of the great horrors of the century to date, and from a professional perspective, the global hospitality sector has suffered as much as any other. Yet responses in the face of adversity have been extraordinary — not least from Irish chefs and restaurateurs who have fought back with a combination of courage and innovation allied to a dogged refusal to surrender. To walk the many now-pedestrianised streets of Cork since the grand re-opening for open air dining has been an inspirational and moving experience, wrestled back from the machines and rendered unto the citizens, all eating, drinking and celebrating on outdoor tables as if to the manner born.
It leaves a body with the sense we are witnessing the rebirth of a city that had its nose betimes bloodied over the last four or five decades, that this is the beginning of a new era, a genuine striving to exploit all the potential and possibilities for life on Leeside.
And, while Cork may have led the way, as it so often has in food and hospitality, the country is sure to follow — or, lead, as is often the case.
Dublin restaurant Allta which had just begun to make a serious stir on the capital’s dining scene before The Covid rocked up, has relocated to the sumptuously appointed grounds of Slane Castle for a pop-up restaurant. Allta Summer House is set in the Boat House Field, on the banks of the River Boyne — just 45 minutes from Dublin, which could make for a highlight of any staycation holiday.
Cooking a set menu over fire in a large space seating 50 guests, the venue features bespoke furniture by Toby Hatchett, local wild flower roof installations a big bar, fire pit and gorgeous river views. Open Thursday to Sunday, commencing today June 26. Ticket series, €95 per person, available online. Advice is, ‘dress to party, but leave the heels behind!’
Chef Davitt Conroy is up to something similar in West Cork, offering an al fresco dining experience. Having returned to his native Cork last year from New York to with wife Anna, to hole up in West Cork with his father during the first lockdown to escape, the catastrophic Covid impact in the Big Apple and the pair loved it so much, they’ve made the move permanent and their very recently arrived baby Nora is a fully-fledged Corkonian. Conroy’s highly exclusive summer pop-up at the very lovely Glensallagh Gardens, in Ballydehob, is an ideal opportunity for extended family and friends to come together and dine under shelter neath the stars in a 12-seater marquee (two tables of six) where they will be served an eight-course tasting menu flush with Glensallagh Gardens produce and matching wines also optional. Pre-prandial Garden tours are also available from owner Richard Spiers which The Menu highly recommends.
Further info, Tel Anna at 087 461 1415, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the conventional farming community increasingly turns its head towards the very real benefits of organic farming, both for environmental reasons and for very real savings on the high costs of annual inputs, NOTS (National Organic Training Skillnet) increasingly finds itself at the heart of the conversation and their new online shop is worth checking out for great deals on books from top global authors writing about the organic, regenerative, and biological agriculture sectors, with free postage anywhere in Ireland. NOTS also offer courses for any conventional farmer thinking of going down the organic route and this year also facilitate Feeding Ourselves 2021: Practicing Food Sovereignty, an annual gathering hosted by Cloughjordan Community Farm, this year online, of small farmers, seed savers, cooperatives, community food advocates and others with an interest in food, farming and rural revitalisation.
How about a summer picnic lunch in the sun of Cork produce all sourced from The English Market — a timely reminder that while eyes may be very much fixed on foreign shores after prolonged lockdown, you’d be hard-pressed to surpass the finest of Irish food.
There’s very little to do other than to lay the table, pop open a few bottles and let the spread itself do the heavy lifting. O’Connell’s fishmongers not only supply a fine range of fresh-caught fish but their smoked trout always makes for a mighty fine lunch. Tom Durcan’s award-winning spiced beef is very tasty indeed when paired with a mixed olive and cornichon selection from The Real Olive Company — the oil of which should then be mopped up with chewy ciabatta from the wondrously bountiful Alternative Bread Company.
For dessert, we relished exquisite Bushby’s raspberries, from Rosscarbery, a divine and granular Lemon Drizzle cake from the Farmgate Cafe and Smoked Carrigaline cheese with On The Pig’s Back wholewheat crackers: the entire schemozzle washed down with crisp, refreshing Ginger Kombucha from the ever splendid My Goodness. And, do you know, we might never eat the same again and yet create a further 10 or more equally wonderful repasts from the trove of edible splendour housed within the venerable market’s hallowed halls — just be sure your picnic basket is of industrial-sized proportions!